Friday, April 20, 2012

how to serve a search warrant

Nineteen years ago today, seventy-six people in the Branch Davidians compound in Waco, Texas, were killed in a fire. The feds tried to execute a search warrant fifty days earlier, resulting in a gun battle killing four Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco agents and six Davidians. After the first day, the Davidians were under siege. In the nineteen years since, the feds haven't learned much about safety of the public during the execution of a search warrant.

A quick search of the internet turned up
 these instructions for serving a search warrant in Michigan. (We do not live in Michigan.) 
1.Get a search warrant, no-knock search warrant or arrest warrant from a judge. You must demonstrate that you have probable cause to believe a suspect is hiding evidence at his home to get a search warrant. To obtain a no-knock search warrant, you must demonstrate that the suspect is likely to destroy evidence, or injure himself or others, if he knows police officers are at his residence.
2. Enter arrest warrants into computer databases for local, state or federal law enforcement. Serve search warrants at the residence that the warrant allows you to search.
3. Knock on the door of the residence and identify yourself as a police officer unless you have a no-knock warrant. Give the suspect a reasonable amount of time to open the door. When he comes to the door, show him the search warrant before entering the premises.
4.Force the door open if you have a no-knock warrant or if occupants refuse to allow you into the residence. Be prepared for violence if you face this situation.
Perhaps the law is different in my state because those aren't the rules they followed when they served the warrant at our house. "When he comes to the door, show him the search warrant before entering the premises." That's the part that didn't happen. Wearing Kevlar, they pushed their way in, nearly shot our dog, waved guns around, rounded up my family, and only then--after I made multiple demands to see it--did they show me the warrant.
Protect and serve? Not so much. They protected themselves, first and foremost. We weren't armed. We weren't wearing Kevlar. They were.
All this for a non-violent crime and no reason to suspect that any of us would react violently.

No comments: